In Perth, very few people read. Of course this is a wild generalization, and the fact that you are reading this means it cannot be true of everyone! But in my experience, reading is for many people not really something that they do very much of. This doesn’t mean that people cannot read, just that they choose to do other things with their time.
This seems to be quite different from our Eastern States brothers and sisters. There is more of a culture of reading over there. More people seem to be aware of the latest fiction release, and they have a range of newspaper options with lengthy editorials on world news. Perth newspapers are the kind with a cute puppy on the front page and world news tucked behind the TAB guide on page 52.
Why is it that people care so little for reading? Of course, there are many reasons.
As a relatively recent smartphone user, I have found my helpful little device difficult to put down, and one obvious result has been less reading. In theory, I can read things more easily using my smartphone or a tablet, but it tends to get used in time wasting things like Facebook and silly little games. Technology seems to replace reading with small sound bites and pictures, removing the need for our imagination to work while spoon feeding us entertainment.
Music is so dominant as well that many listen to music wherever they go, and they don’t want to think too deeply about things. There is no time for thinking and processing only experiencing the moment (well kind of, as you can forget to look where you are going).
Also, Perth has a big focus on the outside, on the beach. We are blessed with the weather (usually) that allows many different activities, so unlike northern Germany where you are stuck inside reading for 6 months of the year, you have other options.
This lack of focus on reading also impacts Christians. Our church library is well used but only by a small segment of the congregation who read a lot.
And when we do read, so often we only read fluff that doesn’t make us think hard. We can flip through the top stories on a news website, pick up the latest magazine, but have no time for real literature (or even the Bible).
So why should we read?
Reading stretches the mind. It is brain exercise. We all need to be exposed to ideas that make us think, to other people’s thoughts and experiences written down for us. We need to engage with our world including the world of ideas.
And what should we read?
As a pastor, I need to say the Bible first, don’t I? No surprises. Many Christians have little time for the Bible in practice, although they would fight anyone who might challenge the fact that the Bible is inerrant or has contradictions. Many wholeheartedly believe that the Bible is the word of God, yet do not have the discipline to read it regularly. If God is speaking to us, are we listening? Are we being renewed by the transforming of our minds? (Rom 12:1)
Other than this, we need to read widely and deeply, including things we don’t usually read. I have recently decided to try to get more Christian books into my reading pattern. I read a lot of fiction to relax, but have started reading more Christian biography along with a range of Christian books at a popular level and a more technical level, on all kinds of topics.
And read good quality books, fiction and non-fiction. Learn, stretch yourself. They will grow your mind and increase your concentration span.
There is a computer programming term ‘garbage in, garbage out’; if you only put garbage in that is what you will get out. What are you feeding your brain with?